The Alameda County, Calif., Social Services Agency has struggled for years to link together disparate systems -- a common problem for departments of its size that manage large numbers of cases for a metropolitan population.

In July, the county agency launched a $1.5 million business intelligence and analytics package from IBM that integrates six systems in order to give caseworkers a nearly real-time look at how and when clients are using various social services.

It's unprecedented in scope and will save taxpayers millions of dollars, according to Don Edwards, the agency's assistant director, who has been the new system's evangelist.

The Social Services Integrated Reporting System touches an estimated 250,000 citizens each month from the San Francisco East Bay, Edwards said, which includes 22,000 elderly and disabled, and more than 3,000 children living in foster care. Because of those large numbers, caseworkers have 500 to 600 cases on their desks at one time. In the past, that meant some people enrolled in the system inevitably would receive benefits for which they weren't eligible, or were able to purposely defraud the system.

"We can now see the entire progress of our client. We can see how they move through the system, how they've used the system services that support them, the people who've worked with them, their caseworkers, and other advocates on their behalf. It gives us a better opportunity to see how things progress from a client's perspective," Edwards said.

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Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor